Rwandan genocide denial is the pseudohistorical assertion that the Rwandan genocide did not occur, specifically rejection of the scholarly consensus that Rwandan Tutsis were the victims of genocide between 7 April and 15 July 1994.[1][2] The perpetrators, a small minority of other Hutu, and a fringe of Western writers dispute that reality.[3][4]

Aspects of the genocide, such as the death toll,[3][5][6] prior planning of the genocide,[3][7][8] responsibility for the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana that triggered the genocide, war crimes (considered a second genocide by some) by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and whether the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda should have tried RPF leaders continue to be debated by scholars.[3][9][10] The Tutsi death toll in the genocide as well as the number of Hutu perpetrators (to the point of collective guilt) is inflated by the RPF government compared to estimates by scholars.[5] People with views that differ from the government position may be accused of genocide denial, even if they accept that Tutsi were the victims of genocide.[3][4]

Denial of the Rwandan genocide is a crime in Rwanda, with laws against "genocide ideology" and "divisionism" used to target those who disagree with the government's official version of history and other critics of the government. Such laws have been accused of infringement on freedom of speech.[11][12][13][14][15]

United States

During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, US officials under the Clinton administration were instructed not to refer to it as genocide, but instead say that "acts of genocide may have occurred."[16] As early as April 1994, the government had internally referred it as genocide, but they did not publicly refer to it as such until June.[17] On a visit to Kigali, in 1998, Clinton apologized for not referring it as genocide, and for not sending aid to Rwanda.[18]

Living Marxism

In 1995, Living Marxism published an article by Fiona Fox disputing the reality of the genocide:[19][20]

The lesson I would draw from my visit is that we must reject the term ‘genocide’ in Rwanda. It has been used inside and outside Rwanda to criminalise the majority of ordinary Rwandan people, to justify outside interference in the country’s affairs, and to lend legitimacy to a minority military government imposed on Rwanda by Western powers.

Denial by officials

A high-ranking Tutsi and a UN official have claimed that no genocide of the Tutsi took place at all: Antoine Nyetera, who claims Tutsi royal origins, and the former UN Representative in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, who declared that "to claim that a genocide occurred is closer to the politics of surrealism than to the truth".[21]

Herman and Peterson

In The Politics of Genocide (2010), writers Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, while not denying the scale of the killing during the period of extreme violence of April–July 1994, questioned the distribution of the victims for those months, arguing that Hutus comprised the majority of the dead, not Tutsis.[22] Their detractors have charged them with genocide denial,[23][24] accusations that have been rejected by Herman and Peterson.[25][26]

Their book goes much further than others who have questioned the consensus view of the genocide; it states that common knowledge is not simply partly incorrect, but is actually "a propaganda line ... that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down."[27] The two men are critical of fundamental aspects of the Human Rights Watch report by Alison Des Forges,[28] and maintain that she obfuscates the issue of who assassinated Habyarimana (they argue it was clearly the RPF) and that, contrary to the conclusions of Des Forges's report, the only well-planned regimen of massive violence perpetrated after the assassination was the RPF's invasion to drive the Hutu from power.[29] Herman and Peterson ultimately conclude that the RPF were "prime génocidaires", while the Interahamwe were "the RPF's actual victims."[30]

Their book argues that the accepted version of the events of 1994 implies Rwanda is "the first case in history in which a minority population, suffering destruction at the hands of its tormentors, drove its tormentors from power and assumed control of a country, all in the span of less than one hundred days", a narrative Herman and Peterson deem "incredible in the extreme."[31]

Africa specialist Gerald Caplan criticized Herman and Peterson's account, charging that "why the Hutu members of the government 'couldn't possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi' is never remotely explained".[32] Herman and Peterson's position on the genocide was found "deplorable" by James Wizeye, first secretary at the Rwandan High Commission in London.[33] Adam Jones has compared Herman and Peterson's approach to Holocaust denial.[34]

Rwanda, The Untold Story

In 2014, the BBC aired the documentary Rwanda's Untold Story, which questioned the accepted historical account and included interviews with American researchers Christian Davenport and Allan C. Stam who, while not denying that a genocide took place, nevertheless state that the majority of the victims may have been Hutus.[35] Afterwards, Rwanda's parliament approved a resolution to ban the BBC in the country.[36]

Peter Erlinder

American lawyer Peter Erlinder, who was Lead Defence Counsel for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, questions the planning of the killing and concludes that the slaughter of the Tutsi should not be called genocide.[37]



  1. ^ Straus, Scott (2019). "The Limits of a Genocide Lens: Violence Against Rwandans in the 1990s". Journal of Genocide Research. 21 (4): 504–524. doi:10.1080/14623528.2019.1623527. S2CID 196571351.
  2. ^ Hintjens, Helen M.; van Oijen, Jos (2020). "Elementary Forms of Collective Denial: The 1994 Rwanda Genocide". Genocide Studies International. 13 (2): 146–167. doi:10.3138/gsi.13.2.02. S2CID 216157285.
  3. ^ a b c d e Reyntjens, Filip (2020). "Intent to deceive: Denying the genocide of the Tutsi". African Affairs. doi:10.1093/afraf/adaa014.
  4. ^ a b Susan Thomson. "How not to write about the Rwandan genocide". Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  5. ^ a b Reydams, Luc (2020). "'More than a million': the politics of accounting for the dead of the Rwandan genocide". Review of African Political Economy. 48 (168): 235–256. doi:10.1080/03056244.2020.1796320. S2CID 225356374.
  6. ^ Meierhenrich, Jens (2020). "How Many Victims Were There in the Rwandan Genocide? A Statistical Debate". Journal of Genocide Research. 22 (1): 72–82. doi:10.1080/14623528.2019.1709611. S2CID 213046710.
  7. ^ "Existence of a plan or policy for genocide".
  8. ^ Rawson, David (2018). Prelude to Genocide: Arusha, Rwanda, and the Failure of Diplomacy. Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0-8214-4650-8.
  9. ^ Caplan, Gerald (2018). "Rethinking the Rwandan Narrative for the 25th Anniversary". Genocide Studies International. 12 (2): 152–190. doi:10.3138/gsi.12.2.03. S2CID 167056377.
  10. ^ Lemarchand, René (2018). "Rwanda: the state of Research | Sciences Po Violence de masse et Résistance – Réseau de recherche". ISSN 1961-9898.
  11. ^ Sullo, Pietro (2018). "Writing History Through Criminal Law: State-Sponsored Memory in Rwanda". The Palgrave Handbook of State-Sponsored History After 1945. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 69–85. ISBN 978-1-349-95306-6.
  12. ^ Waldorf, Lars (2009). "Revisiting Hotel Rwanda : genocide ideology, reconciliation, and rescuers". Journal of Genocide Research. 11 (1): 101–125. doi:10.1080/14623520802703673. S2CID 71746939.
  13. ^ Jansen, Yakare-Oule (2014). "Denying Genocide or Denying Free Speech - A Case Study of the Application of Rwanda's Genocide Denial Laws". Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights. 12: 191.
  14. ^ Longman, Timothy (2019). Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-67809-5.
  15. ^ Reyntjens, F. (2011). "Constructing the truth, dealing with dissent, domesticating the world: Governance in post-genocide Rwanda". African Affairs. 110 (438): 1–34. doi:10.1093/afraf/adq075.
  16. ^ Jehl, Douglas (10 June 1994). "Officials Told to Avoid Calling Rwanda Killings 'Genocide'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  17. ^ "US chose to ignore Rwandan genocide". the Guardian. 31 March 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  18. ^ Power, Samantha (1 September 2009). "Bystanders to Genocide". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  19. ^ Chris McGreal, "Genocide? What genocide?", The Guardian, 20 March 2000
  20. ^ Melvern, Linda (2020). Intent to Deceive: Denying the Rwandan Genocide. Verso Books. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-78873-328-1.
  21. ^ Lemarchand 2013, p. 10.
  22. ^ Herman & Peterson 2010, pp. 51–68.
  23. ^ Monbiot, George (13 June 2011). "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  24. ^ Shaw, Martin (16 September 2010). "The politics of genocide: Rwanda & DR Congo". openDemocracy. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  25. ^ Edward Herman (19 July 2011). "Reply to George Monbiot on 'Genocide Belittling'". ZNet. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  26. ^ Edward S. Herman; David Peterson (9 February 2011). "George Monbiot and the Guardian on 'Genocide Denial' and 'Revisionism'". Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  27. ^ Herman & Peterson 2010, p. 51.
  28. ^ Des Forges, Alison (1999). Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda (Report). New York, NY: Human Rights Watch. ISBN 1-56432-171-1.
  29. ^ Herman & Peterson 2010, pp. 51–2.
  30. ^ Herman & Peterson 2010, p. 54.
  31. ^ Herman & Peterson 2010, pp. 56–7.
  32. ^ Caplan, Gerald, "The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda - Review of The Politics of Genocide", Pambazuka News, #486, 16 June 2010.
  33. ^ Wizeye, James, "To claim Tutsis caused Rwanda's genocide is pure revisionism", The Guardian, 25 July 2011.
  34. ^ "See No Evil-Amazing People are Denying Every Genocide in Sight", Genocide Protection News, #11, Fall 2012.
  35. ^ Fagiolo, Nicoletta (April 7, 2015). "Rwanda's Untold Story. A commentary on the BBC Two documentary". La Tribune Franco-Rwandaise. Retrieved July 5, 2017.
  36. ^ "Rwanda MPs condemn BBC Untold Story programme on genocide".
  37. ^ "Andalan News - Situs Andalan untuk informasi berita terkini, terbaru, teraktual dan viral" (PDF).


Further reading